Ride Comes Back with a Good (but not Great) Record

unnamed-132It’s 2017. Considering that hoverboards aren’t a thing (and what is passing off as them is total bullshit) and we have an orange haired man-child running the country, you wouldn’t be unwise to lower your expectations. Living through a number of lackluster band reunions has prepared me for this. For American bands, this especially rings true. The Stooges, one of the pillars of not only rock n roll, but my life as well, had a reunion that brought two abominations to their discography that should have never existed. Elsewhere, the Jane’s Addiction reunion made me question why the fuck I used to like the band in the first place. But what is true is that the Brits tend to weather reunions far better than their American counterparts.  Blur’s newer record wasn’t anywhere near as good as their self-titled (or fun), but it still had a couple of bangers that didn’t make the reunion seem like a waste. Likewise, the Verve’s short lived reunion gave us a decent record and just barely the chance to see Richard Ashcroft back in commanding force. With Ride announcing a new record, I wondered if they would fair as well as their British counterparts or if they’d fall into the trap that American bands seem to whenever they reunite. Turns out, they’re somewhere in the middle.

I was never a Ride superfan. My background with them extends from my love of Oasis and almost all bands that were once part of Creation Records. After Ride broke up the first time, Andy Bell eventually joined Oasis as their bass player and stuck it out with the band through about half of their run. During this time, he made several great contributions to the band’s albums. My personal favorite, “Turn Up the Sun,” is probably my favorite non-Noel song on any Oasis album. The demo itself is a masterclass in song writing.

Turn Up the Sun (demo) – Oasis

 

After Oasis broke up and put a crack in my universe, Bell joined Liam with Beady Eye. Within Beady Eye, his songwriting suffered. I couldn’t tell if it was because he was being handicapped by the style of music that Beady Eye put themselves into or if it was because Noel Gallagher wasn’t around to say, “hey, don’t do that – do this instead.”

As far as the songwriting went within Ride, Ride was always more of a singles band for me than anything else. This may be sacrilegious amongst shoegaze fans, but I could never get through an entire album before. In fact, my favorite album from the band is actually OX4, their greatest hits compilation. It takes all the songs I love (“Leave Them All Behind,” “Birdman,” “I Don’t Know Where It Comes From,” “Black Nite Crash”, etc) and puts them in one convenient place. Because of this and my previous knowledge of Bell’s endeavors, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the new album.

Weather Diaries is produced by Erol Alkan, a fact that inspired hope for me because I’ve been a fan of almost everything the man has been apart of lately. So I pushed play on the album and sat in. I went through it once. Then I played it again. Then again. Then I took a break to get some more coffee and went about my day. I sat down again later in the evening and gave it a listen.

I wasn’t floored. That’s not to say that the album was bad. It was actually pretty good. I fell in love with the opening track “Lannoy Point” within the first minute. The steady build up between droned out guitars and ascending synthesizers made the opener fire on all synapses. “A better sense can start again” is the perfect line to return with and a great lead into “Charm Assault,” which feels like a matured version of “Black Nite Crash.” I’m locked in.

Lannoy Point – Ride

Then the band busts out “All I Want,” and I start to feel embarrassed by the vocal effects that are prominent throughout the track. What’s supposed to come across as trippy only comes across as tacky to me. If this was on any other record or wasn’t followed by the two killer tracks beforehand, it probably wouldn’t have gotten to me as much. Even now, as I listen to the track while re-writing this paragraph, I can’t get over it. And whoever is thinking “does a misplaced track really fuck up the record,” let me pose this question for you: does a misplaced scene fuck up a movie? Yes, and sure it can recover, but when it was going so strong before, it’s a speed bump.

“Home is a Feeling” and “Weather Diaries” are good in themselves, but really just make me appreciate the build up of “Rocket Silver Symphony.” “Lateral Alice” is good, but it’s really just a speed bump that takes me to the pinnacle track on the record. “Cali” mixes shoegaze with romantic pop tendencies to become the song I wanted the rest of the record to be. Just the strumming of the guitar gives off heat waves that are hard to replicate. But the heat is there. I hate to say that it renders the remaining tracks on the album useless, but on my listens now, I don’t feel the need to go past this track.

To sum up, Weather Diaries is not bad, just uneven. As an album, it feeds my theory that the band puts out great singles but does not have albums that I can always get through. If you’re a diehard fan, you’ll probably love it. If you’re a casual fan, you’ll casually like it. If you’re not a fan, you’re probably keeping your fingers crossed that Beady Eye reunite – which makes you an idiot. Don’t be.

Weather Diaries is available wherever albums are sold. You can hear the full record below via Spotify.

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